Meet Tim Blanchard
This is Tim Blanchard's first year in the Lake Erie Challenge, and it's also the first time wingfoiling has been in the Challenge! Learn more about Tim's history with surfing and its many iterations, and why he decided to join the Challenge this year.
What is your story with wingfoiling?
I started windsurfing as a teenager. After my first year of university, I took a year off and travelled to Central America, Australia and New Zealand, where I started surfing and caught the surf bug. After graduating from the University of Windsor, I moved to Vancouver Island for work and to pursue windsurfing. I started kitesurfing in 1999 while living in Victoria and moved back to Ontario for teachers college in 2000. I attended the first instructors course in North America, conducted at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina in the spring of 2001 and started instructing that summer. I teamed up with the kiteboarding manufacturer Naish in 2002 and became their Canadian team rider, travelling the Great Lakes promoting the sport for the next few summers. I accepted a full-time teaching position with the Greater Essex County District School Board in 2006 but continue to instruct during my summers off. In 2016 I began experimenting with the burgeoning sport of kitefoiling and in 2019 the new sport of wingfoiling which uses a hand wing rather than a kite. The new sport of wingfoiling is what promoted me to contact the Lake Erie Challenge organizers about this year's event.
What is your favourite memory of Lake Erie?
I love the fall on Lake Erie. When everyone is vacating the beach, that is when our wave season begins. I have had so many great fall wave sessions on Lake Erie, no single one sticks out.
What made you want to get involved in the Lake Erie Challenge?
Several of the local kitesurfing and I have talked about doing a crossing to Pelee Island for over 15 years. Three years ago I heard about the Lake Erie Challenge for the first time and thought it would be awesome to involve kitesurfing and a Pelee crossing into the event. Unfortunately, August is the least windy month of the year and the chances of having good wind on a weekend in August are pretty low. Also, the logistics of kiting are difficult as we need a large beach area to land and launch from.
When I started wingfoiling last year and wakefoiling behind the boat, I envisioned that this would be a much better fit for the event. A support boat would be needed for any open water crossing and in the event of no wind, or the wind dies, I can ride the wake of the boat with my foilboard. The gear is also more compact so I can launch directly from the boat or a rocky beach if need be.
What threats to the Lake’s health really concern you?
Since I spend hundreds of hours in the lake every year, water quality and harmful algae are my main concerns.
How have you been personally impacted by issues that affect Lake Erie’s health?
Over the years I have had many sinus and ear infections from my time in the water. All the diehard windsurfers, kiters and surfers I know that frequent Lake Erie have also had some sort of negative health issue associated with all their time on the water as well.
What does it mean to you to come together with other Lake Erie citizens for this challenge?
Over the past 20 years, I have tried to spread my love of the wind and waves of the Great Lakes to the citizens of the Great Lakes basin. The Lake Erie Challenge is a great opportunity to use the sport I love to promote awareness of the environmental issues that threaten the body of water that is our wavy playground.
What is one fun fact about yourself?
I use to play guitar in several bands in high school and university, and had shoulder-length hair at the time. My son upon recently seeing an old picture from my university years mentioned, “Wow Dad, you use to have flow.”
Is there anything else you wanted to mention that we haven’t talked about?
Would like to say hi to any current and former Leamington District Secondary School students that may see this. Go Lions!